Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi
2020 was an extraordinary year in many respects. It is the year that the whole world was struck by a deadly pandemic, the first of its kind in modern history. It was a year that we survived but also the year when we dug deep into personal reserves that we did not even know we had.
2020 exposed long-standing inequalities in global health, within and between countries. It exposed the divide between the haves and have-nots, who wore a mask, who could wash their hands with soap and water, who got tested, who had access to well-equipped hospitals and who could get a ventilator if they needed it. More significantly, the pandemic brought to the fore whose voices could be heard in the global discourse about the pandemic. African institutions and scientists found themselves in an unfamiliar situation of leading the response in their countries without international experts – and they rose to the occasion. The Center’s experts have driven an unprecedented growth in media engagements and outreach, providing critical COVID-19 response advice to governments and other policy actors.
2020 was also the year when many African scientists claimed their voice, determined to shape the narrative about Africa. As an African research institution, APHRC found itself in a strong position to lend its voice to the ongoing discourse on racial justice and decolonizing global health, having long been a champion of equitable, mutually beneficial, global-north, global-south partnerships in research.
By establishing online communications and collaboration platforms, we were able to work with more partners in the policy arena at the national and regional level, train many more beneficiaries in our short courses, adopt remote data collection approaches, streamline remote working arrangements and learn how to stay productive and connected with each other.
Valuable lessons have been learned and shared and have left the Center better equipped to navigate a world that needs to pause and reflect on inefficient practices that are also harmful to the environment.
I am grateful to the APHRC family which pulled together and supported each other during a very difficult time; to the senior management teams that went an extra mile to design and implement strategies to keep everyone safe and maintain institutional health; to the Board that remained engaged and supportive at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty; and to our funders and partners for their patience, flexibility and understanding that helped us navigate the troubled waters of 2020.